Titus 2:1, 11-15 The epiphany of grace
I have a wonderful Christmas gift here. Its just the perfect present for you,
everything you dream a present would be or imagine a present to be. (hold out the ‘unseen present’) This is the ‘unseen gift’ because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone by giving you something they don’t want. I am relying on your good will that the intention is good…I mean well!
The down side for you is that you will never see any evidence that I mean well. You will never actually receive anything that is tangible, useful or even of benefit from this ‘unseen present’; a present that supposedly expresses my love. In the end you will never be certain that I have actually given you anything.
The grace of God, the love of God…God is faithful, we even sing ‘God is an awesome God’, how often have we heard these phrases? Yet in a way, these words and phrases lack substance and bring us little assurance. After all, can we describe or experience the ‘grace of God?’ I mean, what is really meant by the grace of God and how can we be certain we have it? Just talking about and knowing about ‘the grace of God’ means very little and gives us nothing, which means this ‘unseen gift’ is not a gift at all; a ‘gift’ implies there is actually something given that will benefit the receiver…The grace of God implies he has something to give us that will benefit us.
Tonight we celebrate the grace of God. Tonight we celebrate with the words of St Paul in Titus ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.’ God did not remain hidden nor did he give us an ‘unseen gift’ of grace. The grace of God has appeared to all people. The grace of God has appeared in the human baby Jesus; born in a real stable, in a real manger and born to a real mum, Mary. He is both truly God and truly human. At Christmas we celebrate the epiphany, the revealing of God’s grace to us, the ‘seen gift of God’s grace’, the baby Jesus who will save us from our sins, as St John also declares ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’
The grace of God is real and tangible in the Christ Child Jesus. The grace of God, Jesus, who saves you and me, saves all people from their sin, is not an idea, a philosophy, a hope or wish, like an ‘unseen gift’, here tonight we celebrate the tangible; the historical fact and the reality that God has actually given us a gift of grace in his Son Jesus that will benefit all people, as we sing in, Hark! The herald angels sing ‘mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.’
Like with a real gift given to us that needs to be unwrapped once receive, Jesus’ birth was just the beginning of God’s epiphany of grace. The depth of his love for us, the awesomeness of his grace was fully revealed on the cross, when Jesus was crucified for our sin. On that real wooden cross, with real wounds, and real blood, God’s epiphany of real grace paid the dept of our real sin, as Paul writes in Romans ‘He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.’
The epiphany of God’s grace for all people began in the manger. The awesomeness of God’s love was unwrapped on the cross. The fullness of God’s grace has been completed in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven. At Christmas we celebrate the epiphany of God’s grace to all people. Every Sunday we celebrate the distribution or the giving out of God’s grace in Holy Communion. Every Sunday God continues to reveal his grace to us, through his word and sacrament. It is in the church that his gift of forgiveness is given and received. The church and its liturgy are now the new manger of Jesus. The church is the stable where we, who are made wise unto salvation, come and worship the king.
May this Christmas give you joy, hope, peace and the certainty that in Jesus, the grace of God is revealed.